DALLAS -- Dallas High School's robotics team, the Cyber Drakes, will need to add a little heft to its robot before taking it to the First Tech Challenge state tournament this weekend.
Robotics may not sound like a full contact sport, but it is -- for the robots.
Dallas' robotic creation was small compared to other teams' entries at the Feb. 13 qualifying tournament in Corvallis and was knocked around. With the potential for other teams to turn off or disable the Cyber Drakes, the team doesn't want to stand for that again.
"We need to be more stable and robust," team member Mary Isham said.
That is a problem the team is happy to take on considering its surprising success this year.
In December, the rookie team barely had a frame built for its robot. But by February, the team was competing -- and winning -- awards.
"For a first-year team, we didn't expect to go this far," Isham said.
Team adviser and DHS science teacher Lee Jones also was surprised -- and proud -- to see the team qualify for state.
"They set the bar high for future teams," he said.
Robotics isn't just about designing a cool-looking robot. They have to perform a specific task in competitive matches, which are revealed to teams at the beginning of the year.
This year's match format has two teams forming an alliance, trying to outscore the two teams on the opposing alliance. A match is played on a 12-by-12-foot arena. Each corner has a shoot with 15 plastic balls, which the robots must trigger to release and teams are given eight balls to load into their robots in the beginning of each match. The object is to gather and shoot as many balls as possible into goals inside and outside the arena in two minutes.
Teams design their robots in any fashion they choose in order to score points, but they all must use the same parts.
Dallas put its robot to the test in four scrimmages before heading to Corvallis.
Match strategy had to wait even longer. With many robot design possibilities, there is little point in coming up with a game plan too soon.
"Seeing the other teams' robots helps us change our strategy at the tournament," said team member Stephen Austin.
Their on-the-spot planning seemed to work.
Four of the five matches had Dallas on the winning alliance, and the judges gave the team an extra boost with the "Inspire Award," which automatically qualified the Cyber Drakes for state.
The team had a few problems in Corvallis, which it is now adjusting for to prepare for state. Jones thinks the team is up to the challenge of facing the other top 23 teams in the state.
"They are ready for the real thing," he said. "It will definitely be exciting if nothing else."
The First Tech Challenge Oregon Championship Tournament is at South Meadow Middle School in Hillsboro starting with a practice and inspection day on Saturday, Feb. 27 and the tournament on Feb. 28.